Machinists and machine operators have become harder to find in recent years. Apprenticeship programs, training grounds for machinists that are typically four years (or 8000 hours) in length, have been curtailed or eliminated by many businesses, and a push for high school students to attend four-year colleges, rather than to pursue a trade, has decreased the number of available machinists.

To meet the needs of businesses for skilled machinists, vocational schools, technical colleges, and community college have initiated programs for training the next generation of machine operators. Although some programs have fast-tracked students into employment in two years, it takes four or five years of schooling and on-the-job training to become fully qualified.

What tasks do machine operators perform?

Machinists set up and operate industrial equipment such as milling machines, lathes, and precision grinders. Although there are machines for woodworking, machine operators are often working with various types of metals. The equipment they use can be computer-controlled (CNC) or manually operated machines. Either way, the operator is responsible setting up the machine and producing quality parts. Also, operators must maintain their machines and ensure that there are adequate amounts of material for each job.

What education and skills are required?

Some companies may require their machinists to have journeyman’s papers, which are awarded after completing an apprenticeship. In most cases, however, vocational programs will provide the needed education for employment. Machinists will also need the following skills:

  • Good math skills: These are a must to understand complex instructions and understand blueprints
  • Attention to detail: Machinists must be able to work with close-tolerance dimensions
  • Problem-solving skills: Fixing errors and determining why output is low is part of the job
  • Technical skills: Machines that are controlled by computers require some knowledge of sophisticated software
  • Analytical skills: Machinists must be able to interpret blueprints, schematics, and models

How much can machine operators expect to earn in Canada?

Machinists who can program and operate a CNC machine tool will be at the top of the pay scale, earning as much as $55,000 annually, depending on experience. The average salary for a CNC operator in Canada is close to $40,000 per year. Keep in mind that machine operators with a broad range of skills that can be utilized in all areas of the shop will increase their chances of employment and typically command higher wages.

We can help you find machine operators

Do you need operators in your machine shop? We’ll help you find them. Get in touch with HCR Personnel Solutions, a leading manufacturing recruitment agency in Canada that recruits top professionals for exceptional career opportunities.


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